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MB900422771[1]With this being the 40th anniversary of Roe versus wade, the news has been filled with commentary from both sides. You can read the pro life side and you can read the pro choice side and both have parts and pieces of logic.

I firmly believe the reason we can’t come to an agreement on the issue is because we have never had the right to even have a choice in the matter. Only God has the knowledge and foresight and vision to know whether a life is valid. And since He is the one who creates that life in the first place, He is wise enough not to create something of no value.

All of the arguments aside, I got a practical lesson on the whole issue this week. It was a beautiful illustration of life value and I wish I could pass it on to every pro-choicer out there.

The real story began over 60 years ago when a baby boy was born to the parents of one of my best friends. He was severely handicapped from the start, his body twisted and useless. And though normal communication was not possible, it soon became apparent that his mind was sharp and comprehension of the world around him keen. His fierce determination to fight for life earned him the nickname of Tuffy.

For 60 years his family has faithfully loved and cared for him. They were his advocates when the long term care facility was giving less than adequate care. They went out of their way to make sure he spent holidays with the family. They visited regularly – almost every day – for 60 years to make sure he knew he was loved. They managed to understand his method of communication and did everything they could to address his needs.

I have seen them kiss him and hug him, shave him and joke with him. I have watched them turn his chair for the best view out the window, readjust his pillows to assure comfort, get in the faces of medical staff to get them to listen, and nurse him through fevers and infections.

My precious friend has her own serious health problems, has a very challenging marriage, lost a daughter in her twenties to cancer and fights every day to keep her head above water. Never once have I heard anger, bitterness, regret or impatience over the demands of keeping Tuffy safe and secure. While from the outside this did not look like a regular, gather around the dinner table every night kind of family, it was no less a family because of Tuffy. In fact, the extra effort needed to hold them together probably made it more of a well bonded family than most.

Several times, especially in the last few years, Tuffy became critically ill. Never did my friend wish for it to be over. Her prayers were always for comfort and healing. She never asked that her life be easier, only Tuffy’s. 

Tuffy passed away this past week and my friend along with her family have deeply grieved.

To my friend he was never a burden, he was a brother. His life served a purpose regardless of his ability to walk and talk in a “normal” manner. I believe Tuffy’s life made her kinder, more thoughtful, more compassionate, more tolerant and more thankful than life without him would have.

Was their life easy with a child like Tuffy? Not in the furthest sense of the word. Was their life better because of Tuffy? You bet it was. He brought a light and a love, a focus and family closeness, and  lessons beyond measure.

Tuffy was different but no less dear to his family than any other son or sibling. I rejoice that he is free of his twisted body and running around heaven shouting and singing today. And I thank God for my friend and the life lesson she passed on by embracing what others might have called a life of little value.

If we could all let God handle life and death and just tend to the things He gives us control over, events like Roe versus Wade would not exist. Instead, love and compassion would take their place.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16 

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MH900400203[1]These are the things I love about Christmas –

  • The music, subtle in the background but so familiar you don’t need to hear it well to hum along
  • The colors, poinsettia red and halo gold,  evergreen and shiny silver
  • The characters of Christmas, angels and elves, boisterous Santa  and gentle Jesus
  • The attitudes of Christmas, of giving and sharing, smiling and caring

These are the things I don’t like about Christmas –

  • The commercialism that says spend more, buy more in the spirit of giving
  • The frenzy that brings mothers to the end of their rope, children to wailing frustration, and shoppers to disregard people in pursuit of the perfect present
  • The element of crime, ever in pursuit of an unguarded purse, an unlocked door, a car full of packages with no one around to hear the shattering of glass
  • The pressure to break budgets, max out credit cards, outdo the other gift givers
  • The fact that love and good tidings will last for a few short weeks and be forgotten for eleven long months as the world gets back to its lonely, cold, cruel and selfish self

How will children ever truly feel the wonder and magic that comes with the sacrifice of burdened parents to put one very special gift under the tree when they have become accustomed to piles of packages and shelves overflowing with everything they ever had a whim for?

How will husbands ever burst with pride over a beautiful handmade shirt, created in secret moments behind closed doors, when their closet bulges with more of the store bought kind than they could ever wear in a lifetime?

How will wives ever appreciate simple searched out treasures that took time and effort and actual thought when they have at their fingertips all of the magical gadgets ever invented to lighten their load, clutter their counters and make a home cooked meal happen in a few minutes?

And most important, how will a weary world ever find the gentle arms of a loving, compassionate God when they shove His son into a cardboard box and store Him away until the stores stock their shelves once more with their pseudo signs of Christmas, reminding people it’s time to take Him out again?

Did Bethlehem walk away from the glow of the manger and get so caught up in the  dust and the demands of their daily struggle they forgot the miracle until the anniversary rolled around again? Did the shepherds go back to their grumbling existence, forgetting the brilliant light and heavenly song? Did the Kings let the fulfillment of prophecy fade from memory with each mile they traveled back to their homelands?

Why doesn’t the heart born of the beauty in the Christmas season stay full and fresh with the bounty of the Christmas message? Is our good news of a Savior not more powerful than all of the bad news of a world in trouble?

Yes! He is more powerful. His goodness outshines all acts of cruelty. His sacrifice overshadows all displays of selfishness. His love overcomes all hatred.

We can keep Christmas, the good and gentle and golden bits of it, in evidence every day all year long if we will challenge ourselves to carry the Christ child with us wherever we go. Don’t put Him away with ornaments. Instead, read His words every day, hang His star in every room of your home, take His love into loveless places, extend His kindness to the hurting, pray His presence into dark places, share His life saving message with the dying.

Never forget, it’s not the commercial driven world that determines at what point in the year to ring in the Christmas season. It’s the Spirit driven life that vows to keep the Christmas message ringing every day.

I pray you will store up the awe struck faces of the children, the soft glow of the lights as snow falls, the sweet scent of pine boughs, the tug of a familiar carol floating on the air, the touch of a loved one, the crackle of wrapping paper, the surprise and the joy and the wonder of the next few weeks and let them continue to inspire you for the next 345 days.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in Him.  1 John 4:16

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Thanksgiving rolls around again bringing with it the scent of pumpkin pie, the sound of family interacting, the feel of damp late fall days, the sight of autumn on the grass and snow on the hilltops, and the taste of turkey smothered in rich gravy.  Of all our holidays, this one stirs the five senses like no other.

Oh that it would stir our hearts into a frothy mound as high as the whipped cream we pile on our desserts.

We are such a people of plaintive nature, freely expressing our complaints about everything and anything.  I’m up to here, especially after the exposure of an elections year, with negativity. I want my heart to feast this Thanksgiving day, not my stomach.

I want to look around the room at my precious family and swell with the melted butter glory of God’s goodness. I am not alone and I am ever grateful. Many are and my heart breaks for them.

I will bask in the hugs and laughter and I will treasure the memories dripping with whip cream wars, lumpy gravy, rolls that forgot to rise, pumpkin pies missing a key ingredient (sugar) and Grandma Mae’s boiled turkey that ended her career as hostess for our family dinner.

I will remember with tears the Thanksgiving my mom passed away but will smile at the grace and strength she showed in the process.

Like salt and pepper on a green bean casserole I will be blessed by the changes in the past year evidenced around the table with taller children, more seasoned marriages, talk of a new driver’s license, a High School graduation, a new job and so much more my ears will be busier than my elbow lifting the fork.

I will thank God as I look around for taking a bunch of oddly shaped potatoes and helping them to soften into a fluffy mound of family, still bearing a few lumps but for the most part, all mingled together with mouth watering love.

I will be sad for the ones who can’t be here this year, happy for the ones who can, and nostalgic for the ones who never will be again.

I’m going to try to put a lid on any simmering political discussions. I’ll sprinkle sugar on sour grapes, turn down the stove before a conversation heats up and stuff a piece of pie in the mouth of sibling rivalry.

When it’s all over and I’m slumped in my rocker by the fire, I’ll pat my way too full heart and thank God for the millionth time for what I have, for what He has done and for what is yet to come.

 Psalm 34:1  I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

P.S. You may have noticed I’ve missed a couple of Monday posts. Between trying to write a 5,000 novel in November, writing the Christmas pageant script and surviving this very busy open enrollment period at work, I’m going to have to back off the blog a little.  So I’m going to once a week for the rest of the year. 

 

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I promise this will be the last post dedicated to my vacation on the Harley but this was too good not to share.

On the next to the last day of our trip we were in Dubose Wyoming, a quaint little town with a mining history, a definite country flavor and a great little restaurant called the Cowboy Café.  We woke to a temperature of about 34 degrees.  In case I haven’t told you , I am a fair weather rider.  I hate to be cold and anything less than 70 degrees on a motorcycle is cold, at least to me.  I suggested we wait awhile before pulling out to let it warm up a little (or preferably a lot) .  Of course, the boys scoffed at that idea. We needed to get on the road even if we had to brush the frost off our leather seats.

Imagine my glee when we discovered neither bike would start.  I was told not to hurry to check out of the nice warm motel room. I disguised my bitter disappointment.  

I was also asked to pull out my tablet and research possible reasons for a motorcycle not starting in 30 degree weather.  (Now, I could have told them the reason without the help of the world wide web – it was too darn cold!  But I kept that wisdom to myself.)

In my search for information I stumbled on a Harley Davidson chat room.  A rider from Alaska had asked if anyone had advice for getting a bike to start on a cold morning.  The first response from a sympathetic fellow biker was, “Move to Californy.”  I knew right then I was going to love this research.

I started reading the responses aloud, getting more and more tickled as I went. One guy said to use a blow torch.  We didn’t have one so I offered my hair dryer.  They didn’t bite.  Another very wise Harley owner said “try again next spring”, sage advice if you ask me.  There were more, but better than the suggestions were some of the slogans the bikers had added to their responses.   Here are just a few:

“I have taken a vow of poverty.  If you really want to irritate me, send money now.”

“Everyone has to believe in something.  I believe I’ll have another beer. “

And the one that had me rolling on the motel bed, “I asked God for a motorcycle but then I realized that’s not how God works.  So I stole a motorcycle and asked for forgiveness.”

Now that one did get a bit of a smirk from my husband and an actual chuckle from my brother in law but they both decided I could turn off the computer at that point.  I guess they weren’t finding my research helpful.

In the end they pushed the bikes out into the sunshine and we waited half an hour.  They started right up on the next try.  That half hour gave me plenty of time to build up my layers (seven in all counting the camisole all the way out to the leather jacket), to wrap a scarf around my throat three times and to double up on my socks. Of course, within three hours I was stripping off layers at every stop until I was finally down to a t-shirt. 

The comments on that chat room site may not have helped a lot with troubleshooting the problem, but they sure raised my spirits.  I was still chuckling a few hundred miles down the road.  In fact, just thinking about it brings a smile to my face today.

It was a great trip.  I loved the changing landscapes, the special time with my husband and my brother in law, the relief for a while from the pressures of home and work, and the freedom of sailing along in the sunshine and the fresh air.  But, in the end I loved that final leg up our driveway, being greeted by the dog who leaped and barked a welcome, the family who raced across the field to give hugs and hear all about the trip, and the sweet tug of home.

Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Psalm 84:3

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Next week marks the start of a ten day motorcycle trip from our home in Washington State to the Colorado Rockies and back again.  It’s called vacation – you know, that thing that brings up visions of rest, relaxation and lazy days.  Of course to get from here to there takes an awful lot of hard work.  Why do we do that to ourselves? We push so hard getting ready to ‘rest and relax’ we are too tired to enjoy it when we have the opportunity.

I’ve been putting in some long days at the office trying to get ahead, to set things up to ward off any crisis  in my absence, and to finish up every loose end so I can return to a clean desk.  After long days at work I’m cleaning, washing and packing at home.  Add to that the planning out of a couple of Sunday worship programs to make it easy for my team while I’m gone while still maintaining the every day schedule of grandkids, meetings, normal life (if there is such a thing) and I’m pretty much frazzled.  My goal is to get away but make it seem like I’m not even gone while at the same time making sure my absence is noted.  Is that twisted or what?

I came home extremely exhausted Tuesday night and my husband’s comment was, “You’d better toughen up because we’re going to have some ten hour days on the bike ahead.”  Imagine how that perked me up!  If you’ve ever motorcycled you know that ten hour days can be brutal.  My first thought after his comment was, “unsubscribe me.”  I don’t want to wear myself out getting ready to wear myself out.

Do you ever feel like life is just a series of trying to get caught up, set up and psyched up for tomorrow so you can start it all over again when tomorrow gets here?  I do, quite often in fact. You don’t have to tell me, dear friends who are reading this right now like Connie and Diane, that I am my own worst enemy.

But, even though I’ll be worn out by departure day, here’s what I’m clinging to, what I know from past experience to be true:

  • I won’t be in the kitchen for ten whole  days.  Someone else will be doing the cooking, the serving and the dishes. That’s a big hallelujah!
  • I won’t be driving.  I’ll be sitting back enjoying the scenery, making up stories in my head, pondering, telling myself jokes (yes, I do that), hugging my guy now and then just for the heck of it, and letting stress and tension blow off my shoulders and fall to the road behind me.
  • I won’t be responsible for making decisions about the route.  That’s all mapped out by my husband.
  • I won’t be donning high heels, pantyhose and business suits for ten whole days.  I’ll be pulling on jeans and t-shirts, hiding my hair under a helmet and looking cool in leather.
  • I won’t be rushing from work to a meeting at church then to home, laundry and meal prep.  I won’t be rushing anywhere.  I’ll be moving at the speed dictated by my ride, breathing deep and smiling the whole time (except maybe on those 10 hour days).
  • In the evenings I’ll be settling down in a nice clean motel room, journaling about the great sights and experiences of the day.
  • I’ll be spending quantity and quality time with my best friend in all the world, my husband of 45 years, something that gets pushed aside too often.
  • I’ll be tired but happy, a little sore but relaxed.  And the one thing I won’t be is busy!  I’m in a hurry to get to that point (which I realize is an oxymoron).
  • And by the way,I won’t be blogging for the next two Mondays or Fridays.  When I return I should have some great stuff to share with you though.

I would covet your prayers for good weather, a safe journey and grace moments each day. God always gives me beautiful insight and speaks to me often as we roar along.  I’m looking forward to those conversations most of all.

It is useless for you to work so hard  from early morning until late at night,  anxiously working for food to eat;  for God gives rest to his loved ones. Psalm 127:2

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On Sunday, August 5th, I will celebrate my 45th wedding anniversary.  I honestly can’t believe it has been 45 years.  I sometimes still feel like the innocent young girl with love blinded eyes that I was in 1967.  Then again, I more often feel like the very experienced, not quite so love blinded wife that I am today.

I remember things I used to think were so darn cute in our early years.  Those same things drive me nuts today.  Things like the fact that he still can’t make a bed to where it doesn’t look like someone is still in it.  Or how he still sneaks drinks right from the carton.  How he leaves a used knife on top of the butter dish in the refrigerator because he doesn’t want to fill up the sink with a bunch of dirty ones.  And there’s his amazing sense of where we are at any given time when traveling (he never gets lost) which is offset by  his 45 year can’t-find-the-dishwasher disability.

We’ve traveled a lot of miles in our 45 years – through fields of new babies, narrow roads of grief, highways of financial stress, up hills strewn with misunderstanding, down valleys of laughter, around corners of angry words and right through intersections of intense love that met moments of ‘who is this man and what am I doing here?”

We have a son we won’t meet until we get to heaven, two daughters and a son who showed us heaven on earth (as well as a little of the other place when they were teens).  We’ve gained a plethora of gifted grandchildren. 

Our house is the same one we moved into on our wedding day, but it is now a home.  We’ve known a veritable kennel of dogs and cats, had a barn full of horses and mules, grown a variety of crops, mowed billions of blades of grass, pulled, poisoned and put up with every weed known to man.

We have more stuff than we could possibly remember or find if we needed it.  (Our children will hate us when we are gone.) 

We have seen so many changes over the years I can’t possibly name them. 

But by God’s grace, there are so many things that haven’t changed.  He still makes me laugh over the dumbest things.  He still makes my heart beat faster when he kisses me.  I still beam with pride over his work ethic, honesty and ability to do anything he puts his mind to.  His heart is still soft.  His mind is still sharp.  His habits are still annoying.

Today I tried to imagine not being married and I found I don’t have the slightest idea what that was like.  “We” is so much more than “I” ever was. 

Am I saying it’s been 45 years of bliss?  Of course not.  Every journey is a lot of work.  The best ones are those where you had milestones when you didn’t think you’d make it but you did.  You don’t feel like you’ve accomplished a worthwhile task if you don’t have some sore muscles afterward. 

After 45 years I’ve figured out that what hasn’t changed so far probably ain’t gonna.  I’ve discovered new things can still happen in an old marriage.  There’s still some of that fresh faced young boy in the man and some of that blushing young girl in the woman. God has blessed us mightily, buoyed us up in some tough times, given some great golden moments, helped us laugh at ourselves and sort the major from the minor.

In retrospect, even the bad has been good in the long run.  Looking ahead I’m just thankful that we are still looking ahead together.

 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Eph 5:31

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On Friday we leave for an 8 day motorcycle trip and as I prepare I am once again faced with the impossible task of condensing 8 days worth of clothes, makeup and hair tools into the teeny weeny luggage compartment of a Harley Ultra Classic touring bike.  Big bike – little storage by my standards.

I start by putting the bag that fits inside the luggage compartment of the bike on the couch and patting the sides to puff them out so it looks bigger.  I do this several days ahead of time.  I carefully fold into a neat pile four pair of jeans, two turtlenecks in case of cold, six tanks in case of warm, two long sleeve shirts for layering, a sweatshirt, underwear, socks, sandals, tennis shoes, curling iron, hairdryer, makeup, sun screen, assorted hair accessories, book, journal, e reader and nightgown.

I stand back to look and notice the tower of items I’ve placed next to the bag looks like the stepsister’s size 10 foot next to Cinderella’s size 5 slipper.  Not good.

I begin subtracting by pulling out an undergarment.  The stack does not shrink noticeably.  Darn!  I begin to negotiate with myself.  “I can wear a pair of jeans three days instead of two can’t I? “ Out comes one pair.  “It’s June – bound to be warm, right?” Out comes the turtlenecks.  “Who needs tennis shoes?  We’ll be riding not walking.”  Nix the tennis shoes.  “Book or e reader? ”  “Air dry the hair?”

I check the weather reports for areas we will be visiting.  Out come three tanks, back in go the turtlenecks.  I pull out, put in, fold tighter, sigh and start over.  I am an unlimited-luggage-for-the-cruise type girl in a black leather biker world.  I have enough clothes in my closets to make sure I don’t repeat an outfit in any 30 day period.  But I love a guy who sees changing from a black T-shirt with the HD logo to a white T-shirt with the same as a major wardrobe overhaul.  Needless to say he doesn’t understand the packing challenge.

The funny thing is, once we’re on the road I don’t find it quite so difficult to wear the same thing two days in a row or even (gasp) three if necessary.  I’m not so caught up in how I look as I am in the scenery around me.  And, I’m too busy enjoying uninterrupted time with my husband to think about impressing others.

The craziness of multiple projects, plans and people coming at me in a constant deluge disappears the minute I crawl on the bike behind him and we set off on yet another roaring adventure.  This is pure togetherness – so close we are constantly touching, our direction perfectly matched, sharing thoughts and impressions as we sail down the highway. I can almost feel his heartbeat when I wrap my arms around him and our bodies sway in perfect harmony to the movement of the bike. 

We need this trip.  Life has been like a speeding train lately.  It will ramp up again when we return.  But for the next 8 days it will be just us, our timing, our choices, our quiet talks, our laughter, our frayed bond healing.

“Scarcely had I passed them when I found the one my heart loves.  I held him and would not let him go ….”  Song of Songs 3:4

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